[From the archives.]
A few years ago Voddie Baucham made the outlandish claim that shyness is a sin. Then he said that when he sees a shy kid he knows better than the kid’s own parents how to fix that kid’s sin. (Skip to 2 minutes 30 seconds if you want to bypass his insistence on corporal punishment when children are just a few weeks old, because “your kids desperately need to be spanked”.)
As he puts it toward the end of the video clip:
Let me give you an example, a prime example. The so-called shy kid, who doesn’t shake hands at church, okay? Usually what happens is you come up, ya’ know and here I am, I’m the guest and I walk up and I’m saying hi to somebody and they say to their kid “Hey, ya’ know, say good morning to Dr. Baucham,” and the kid hides and runs behind the leg and here’s what’s supposed to happen. This is what we have agreed upon, silently in our culture. What’s supposed to happen is that, I’m supposed to look at their child and say, “Hey, that’s okay.” But I can’t do that. Because if I do that, then what has happened is that number one, the child has sinned by not doing what they were told to do, it’s in direct disobedience. Secondly, the parent is in sin for not correcting it, and thirdly, I am in sin because I have just told a child it’s okay to disobey and dishonor their parent in direct violation of scripture. I can’t do that, I won’t do that. I’m gonna stand there until you make ‘em do what you said.
You see, it’s all about obedience: make that child obey or everyone’s a sinner!
Discernment Among the People of God
I first read about Baucham’s extreme claims about what God supposedly requires of parents at Julie Anne Smith’s blog a while back but it came to mind again because of an article John Piper later published.
Where Baucham is concerned about all the people being in sin – kid, parents, Baucham himself dragged into it as bystander – Piper sees more concrete problems. If you don’t make your children obey, you have only yourself to blame when they end up laid out on a slab in the morgue because they got shot dead.
His article Parents, Require Obedience of Your Children starts by referring to a recent tragedy: a California teen with a toy gun was shot by police. Piper admits he doesn’t know if the teen even heard the commands to lower the weapon, but decides to assume the teen did and then willfully disobeyed because his parents never taught him any better.
Such an assumption is a baseless sensationalization of that poor family’s tragedy and heartlessly capitalizes on their grief. But Piper insists on proceeding with his wild assumption because assuming the worst about things fits his point better than assuming the best. His real point?
I am writing this to plead with Christian parents to require obedience of their children.
You see, Piper saw a mother on an airplane handle her child in a way he disapproves of. The flight attendant told the mother her child needed to turn off an electronic toy. That’s when things took a turn for the worse, he says.
When the flight attendant took her seat, the boy turned his device back on, and kept it on through the take off. The mother did nothing. I thought to myself, she is training him to be shot by police.
There is so much wrong with this nonsense.
First, he jumps to the extreme conclusion that the mother’s failure to act in the manner he approves of on a single occasion means the child is going to grow up not knowing how to make good decisions.
Second, he judges another parent without knowing anything about the child, the family, or what had transpired before he saw them on the plane. He should know better, being a parent himself. How many of us – before we had kids – would see parents handling children and judge them thinking we would certainly do better once we had kids? I’ll tell you, becoming a parent ourselves is the surest cure for that nonsense.
Third, he applies his ignorant and baseless assumptions about the shooting of that teenager to every child whose parent does not require strict obedience. They’re training their children to get shot by police, he insists. Piper admits he doesn’t know why the California teen didn’t put the toy down, but he’ll insist that his death informs Piper’s view of the woman and her son on the plane.
Piper bases all this on Ephesians 6:1, arguing that since children are told to obey parents then parents are by that same verse required to force their children into obedience. I think this is a sloppy way to read Scripture.
Let’s say, though, that parents tried to force obedience. That doesn’t mean the children actually obeyed. It just means someone bigger imposed their own will. Sorry, that’s not obedience.
Happily, there is a way to honor God in how we care for our children, a way that doesn’t rely on Baucham’s and Piper’s extremes.
A Better Way to Raise Your Children
Here’s some good advice from Connie Jakab:
Sometimes as parents we stress when our kids are displaying less than desirable behavior. We blame ourselves or them wondering what went wrong. Nothing went wrong. Perfection is not the aim we strive for in our kids – guiding them successfully through whatever bumps and shortcomings is what parenting is all about. When we struggle with challenges our kids are experiencing, it’s our opportunity to show them the road to overcome.
Perfection is not the aim – not even perfect obedience. Instead, as Connie says, we are to guide our children. How do we guide them into making good decisions, to act in ways that honor God? I think it’s best to follow God’s own example.
Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance? (Romans 2:4.)
God is our loving Father and he leads us to repentance by his kindness, patience and forbearance. It’s that last word that seals the fate of Piper’s and Baucham’s bad advice, because they don’t advocate forbearance but immediate action.
That’s not to say that parents should be marshmallows and let their kids get away with misbehavior. In fact, there are times when coercion is called for, like grabbing your kid and yanking them to the curb when they’re about to run into a busy street.
But when it comes to how one family handles raising children versus how another family does it, none of us should dictate a particular method; one size does not fit all families.
Instead we should support parents, pray for them, and trust that God is working in families now just as he has been for thousands of years.